Friday, March 2, 2018

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave for NJ? NO!

Now that New Jersey again has a “progressive” Democrat in the governor’s office, Phil Murphy, the push for a law mandating paid sick time off statewide for all private sector employees is back on the front legislative burner—and almost certain to be passed. Of course, the NJ Star-Ledger is all in on the scheme. Here are a few relevant passages from the S-L editorial:

Take another look at the lunch lady serving you that sandwich tomorrow. She may not be one of the 18,000 people who have contracted the flu this season in New Jersey, but given that two-thirds of adults in low-paying jobs usually go to work when they have the flu - mostly because they cannot afford to lose a payday - you probably just beat the odds.

In New Jersey, there are 1.2 million workers who do not have access to paid sick leave - that's 38 percent of our private sector workforce - despite the existence of sick leave ordinances in 13 cities and towns, with Jersey City igniting this prudent trend back in 2013.

The bill currently calls for one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a max of 5 to 9 sick days earned, depending on the size of the company.

Consider what we've learned locally: Between January 2014 and July 2015, 9 communities - Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, Irvington, East Orange, Paterson, Montclair, Trenton and Bloomfield - enacted paid sick leave. In the first year of implementation, unemployment actually decreased in 8 of those 9 communities - and in Paterson's case, it dropped by 3 percent. The outlier was Bloomfield, and that increase was meager (from 5.5 to 5.8).

"We talked to these mayors," [Senate Majority Leader Loretta] Weinberg said, "and none of these towns went out of business."

This is just an academic exercise, as this bill is almost certain to pass. Nonetheless, I can’t help myself. So, I left these comments:

This is an immoral bill. The state has no legitimate power to enforce any one-size-fits-all labor law, including mandatory sick pay. This is a voluntary private contract matter between employer and employee. Each employer has the right to set his own terms of employment, including how to handle sick employees.

It may be the case that 38% of employees work for businesses that don’t have a formal sick pay policy. But that doesn’t mean this many employees don’t get paid to take the day off if they are truly sick. I have a friend who started a computer business in the 1980s, which eventually grew into a thriving business of dozens of employees (which he eventually sold for retirement). Years ago, near the beginning of his business, he told me about his policy on sick pay. He did not believe in a set number of sick days per employee. His policy was: If you are sick, stay home. Don’t come in and infect everyone else. I’ll pay you. The anecdote about the lunch lady is a straw man. The bigger problem is people taking sick days for purposes other than being sick. My friend avoided the problem of people taking days off just to “use up” the sick days. Knowing that they’d be paid, yet being “on their honor,” my friend found that nobody takes advantage (if anyone did, they’d be gone). Under Weinberg’s proposed bill, his policy would be outlawed. It’s not right.

On the other side of the issue, many workers may rather have a higher take-home pay than the paid sick days. I belong to a plumbers union. We fund our own benefits, like pension and health insurance, through union trust funds. In my 46 year working career, we never voted to create a sick day fund. We could have. It was discussed. The majority didn’t want it. We preferred the higher paycheck. In essence, each member was self-insured to cover unpaid sick time off out of their own savings. Why should the union membership be forced to fund a sick pay account they don’t want? Because some “progressive” politicians say so, and claims the right to force it on them? Because the Star-Ledger says so? By what right?

As to those city employment statistics, that’s plain disingenuousness. Many factors affect business and jobs. As to those mandatory sick pay ordinances—municipal tyranny if there ever is—it can just as easily be argued, and with much better justification, that business activity and employment would be higher in those towns if not for the extra cost of mandatory sick pay. Nothing is without cost.

Business owners and employees have the right to deal with sickness in their own way, by their own judgment and choice and by voluntary mutual agreement. If a businessperson wants to pay sick employees. Fine. If not, fine also. If a business owner doesn’t want a sick waitress serving customers, the owner can have her not work that day, with or without pay. If an employee doesn’t want to trade a lower wage for sick pay (that “one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked” has to be funded somehow), it’s her right to seek a job that doesn’t have these expensive fringe benefits. If an employee doesn’t like the terms of employment, he can negotiate a change or leave for another job. Just as an employee doesn’t have the “right” to paid sick days, so an employer doesn’t have the “right” to force an employee to stay on under terms he doesn’t agree with. This is not just a practical matter. It’s a moral issue; an issue of individual rights and a government’s job to protect those rights—including the rights to free trade and contract—equally across the board. The state has no moral right to dictate sick pay policy.

Related Reading:

Nothing Earned About Mandated "Earned Sick Time"

Paid Sick Leave, No Matter How ‘Beneficial,’ Should Never Be Legally Mandated in Any Way

‘Mandatory Paid Sick Leave” is Immoral and Economically Destructive

Mandatory Paid Sick Time: Economically Destructive because Morally Wrong

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